The Russian president promised to protect rights, but Thursday, officials announced that the body of another activist had been found.
MOSCOW – Russian human rights activists are mourning one of their own for the second time in barely a week, adding to mounting evidence that President Dmitri Medvedev's promise to establish rule of law and a more liberal social climate was largely campaign rhetoric: The list of human rights activists murdered or arrested since his inauguration has swelled.
Andrei Kulagin, the head of the Karelia branch of the civil rights group Spravedlivost, which means "Justice," went missing two months ago after being summoned to a meeting with unidentified persons in the regional capital of Petrozavodsk, near Russia's border with Finland. His body was recently found in a local quarry and his colleagues announced Thursday that he had been murdered.
"Human rights activists are the exposed nerves of civil society," reads a statement posted on the group's Russian-language website. "They are sharply responsive to injustices and are often at the forefront of the fight for other peoples' rights. Unfortunately, Andrei is not the first human rights activist to pay with his life for speaking the truth," it said.
Lyudmilla Alexeyeva, a 44-year veteran of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Russia's oldest human rights organization, says that the end of Soviet-era laws against dissident activity has merely led authorities to use ad hoc measures, such as trumped-up charges and hired thugs, to quash opponents. "We've lost two activists in a short period of time," she says. "It's a reminder that it's always been dangerous to be an advocate for human rights."
Mr. Kulagin, who founded Spravedlivost in 2007, was known for his advocacy of prisoner's rights and was a member of the board of trustees of Karelia's prison administration.